4 Places To Find The Cash For Your Upcoming (But Necessary) Marketing Campaigns

Even during a worldwide crisis, your business must grow. You have your priorities right, and the need is immediate.

But even as the importance of increasing your visibility on digital platforms grows more obvious by the day, you may wonder, ‘How will I fund a meaningful marketing strategy?’

Let’s look at where you can find the cash to fund your necessary marketing endeavours. 

The expenses of flagship events

You may have planned your event calendar at the beginning of the year and allocated substantial funds there. Be it becoming sponsors of the mega-events of your product principals or arranging for your own events, exhibitions, and launches, none of these stand much chance of coming around for the next 12-18 months. Of course, you’re not alone in this. Many industry biggies like, Apple, Dell World, Atlassian, DrupalCon, NVidia, Oracle, Microsoft, and others have been forced to cancel their flagship events because of the pandemic. These companies are moving online as a way to reach their audience and maintain visibility. 

So, what will happen to all those funds that you had allocated for your event plans? Use them online. Add bandwidth to create content, liven up your social media presence, and build an impactful personal brand for your CxOs. Use the online medium to establish your brand identity and reach a relevant audience. When the time is ripe, this enhanced visibility will drive an inevitable increase in your customer base. 

Savings from canceled business trips

Have you depended on a chain of business trips to meet your clients, or your international partners each year? If so, there’s little chance of that happening for a while now. Even when lockdowns are lifted, the costs of travel will increase by leaps and bounds and remain so for quite some time. Mandatory quarantine, more expensive flights, and more reluctance in accepting invites for face to face meetings are here to stay. They will increase the cost of travel and reduce its impact. This is not a wise way to spend your cash any longer. 

You can easily use your travel budget on your structured marketing efforts to reach out to more people and enhance your visibility. Of course, reduced travel also adds time to the credit column! Beside developing blogs, newsletters, infographics, and research papers, you can also create interactive videos, podcasts, and customer success stories online to help people know your value proposition better. These strategies won’t cost you a fortune but pay huge dividends without you or your employees having to risk their lives by travelling. 

Expenses for client/customer entertainment

According to a survey by Cvent in 2018 with about 3000 corporate event planners, 52% said that their event budgets keep increasing every year. Another report by the event manager blog revealed that big corporate meetings spend about $1,294 per participant on average. Further, international visitors (potential clients or stakeholders), who are invited to these events generate about 21.8% of the spending in travel expenses, 24.6% in shopping and recreation, and 26.5% in entertainment. 

So, you see how much you spend on holding those parties, corporate gatherings, and for entertaining your visitors, who may or may not turn into potential clients? As you can imagine, no travel cuts both ways. Just like you’re likely to cut travel back, your customers and prospects are also likely to cut back on travel to visit you. While you focus on creating meaningful connections with these people in other ways, remember that you can now use these funds effectively and enhance your marketing strategies, a smart move to establish your brand presence online. It’s the smart thing to do. 

Office infrastructural development 

Did you think about redoing the interiors of your office or of shifting to a new office this year? Well, as most of your employees are working from home, what chance of that happening? Large IT companies like TCS and Tech Mahindra have announced that they intend for overwhelming numbers of their employees to work from home. When the employees are happy (no travel, more work-life balance) and they are uber-productive from home, why get them back into an office at all?

Save on that swanky office. Invest the resources that you had kept aside for the same in your marketing efforts to help your business survive and thrive. 

There is no longer any doubt that digital channels like content marketing, social media, and personal branding of the CxOs are the only way to become and stay visible in the eye-line of your target audience. Until now. if your key objection was the budget, then that should no longer be the case. 

Why COVID-19 Has Changed IT Services Sales Forever

As companies globally seem to become more invested in digital ways, even as different parts of the world open up slowly, I’m seeing a future where IT Services companies will have to sell very differently from now on in.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed much, and some changes may last for a while longer. Remote working, shifting operations online, digital services, sales, and marketing are some of these changes that may become the defining themes of our future. In the last couple of months, we have seen how companies in even the most traditional sectors can indeed change their ways of functioning and adopt a digital-based way of life. This had been predicted by so many experts for so long, but it took a pandemic to change things at this scale.

But what about the impact on the world of IT services sales as traditionally practiced by Indian software services companies?

The way it used to be

Indian technology companies have traditionally been extremely export-focused. The largest market (by far) has been the USA, followed by other English-speaking regions like the UK, Australia, and S E Asia. The way they have approached these markets has usually been through a mix of means.

Tapping into the extended personal network of the founders and CxOs has always played a key role. Of course, this is a strategy that works well when the company is looking to establish itself, but it has limitations in scalability. And of course, these networks are also vulnerable to being tapped by the competitors.

Many companies have based their outreach strategy tremendously on participating in large events for visibility. They have exhibited, sponsored, and spoken at events like Oracle OpenWorld, ServiceNow Knowledge, AWS Summit, Microsoft re:Invent, and the likes. This has given them access to a massive pool of attendees from their target audience. They have leveraged that for visibility and for building connections and starting conversations that keep them going year-round. This costs lots of money. But the ROI is clear.

Most Indian IT companies have had a travel-heavy strategy for getting in front of the target audience. I say this from personal experience of having, cumulatively, spent many many months traveling to and across the USA to meet prospects and customers. This strategy has traditionally depended on the efforts of an “inside sales” or “cold calling” team. This team, almost always based in India, must spend nights sending email campaigns and making cold calls to try and set up that elusive first meeting with a new prospect. This mechanism was getting stretched even before the current scenario as campaign responses and answers to cold calls had been plummeting for an age already. Sales leaders felt comfortable with this strategy though, as it allowed them to retain a sense of control. At least, they were doing something, and everything was measurable.

But much of that will change now.

So, what will change?

There are some obvious changes already making big impacts.

All events and conferences have shifted online. While being a sponsor will still get some visibility for the brand name and the logo, the big value is, possibly, gone. There can be no networking in an online conference. There is also no possibility of new people “finding” you as they look through the exhibitors. It is this that drove “top of the funnel” awareness and got you exposure to a new audience. Without that there are no new prospects to add to the database and follow up with over the rest of the year. That opportunity seems gone for good.

Travel is, of course, off the table right now. But even once international travel reopens, it will be very hard to justify traveling. Many countries will implement mandatory quarantine periods on arrival. Airlines will be flying at reduced capacity and are, hence, likely to charge much more for seats. Measures like these will dramatically push up the cost of travel. Perhaps to an unsustainable level.

Other changes could be behavioral, and hence, more profound.

Companies like Twitter have announced that they intend to ask their employees to work from home for the foreseeable future. Other technology companies look set to follow suit to some degree or the other. While your target customers are working from home, it’s likely that some extremely significant changes in buyer behavior could become embedded in their way of working.

So, even if you do brave the travel, how likely are you to get someone to agree to a meeting in these strange times? Most people want to continue maintaining a policy of self-isolation even though the official lockdown may be lifted in their area. Under those circumstances, how many new prospects would agree to a face to face business meeting with you, masked or not?

It’s being said that the post-COVID buyer will be more discerning, less inclined to shop around, more direct, and consciously better informed. This could be a function of some changes in values brought about in testing times or just the fact that working from home gives them more time to do their research and educate themselves on the business problems that they’re seeking solutions for. If that happens, it would seem logical to assume that they will only engage with the vendors they see as realistically capable of delivering them value. They are unlikely to give openings to vendors who cannot project themselves in that light. Most first meetings were anyway given in response to the sheer persistence of the caller or email sender. It seems likely that these rates will dwindle even further. 

Is there any option?

The task for IT services companies has always been to become visible to a new audience and stay visible to their current audience. The complication in these times is that being physically present in the eye-line of the target audience looks unlikely. It’s also probable that the outreach-based methods like email and cold calls will become even less impactful. So, what does that leave?

This is a “made for digital” problem, in my opinion. IT services companies will have to turn to content marketing, social media channels, and distinctive personal branding of their CxOs to make themselves visible. This will have to be the medium where they showcase who they are, how they are different, what is the value they can deliver, and to whom? They will have to do this strategically, professionally, consistently, and over a sustained period of time. This will make them visible to the right audience and, more importantly, in the right context.

I believe that the only way forward may be for them to focus on growing the top of the funnel and on improving the efficiency of each stage of the funnel below that.

They will have to create an impact digitally -there’s no other option now.

9 Things You Will Regret Not Knowing about B2B Social Media

B2B Social Media

Social media is just a buzzword until you come up with a plan.” – Unknown

Well, chances are that you have heard a lot about B2B social media and are convinced that it has moved beyond just a buzzword. You want to start adopting this new way of marketing and sales, but not sure what to expect and what mistakes to avoid.

Through this blog post, I have tried to capture 9 key points which every B2B company must know while planning their social media and content marketing initiatives –

B2B Social Media is different than B2C

The nature of B2B businesses is different – the sales cycles are complex, purchase decisions do not happen in seconds, there are multiple decision makers involved in the sales cycle, and fitment of the solution plays a more important role than emotional connect. Considering all such factors, don’t you agree that the social channel which you visit for connecting with your family and friends is probably not the best channel for educating the buyers about how they can solve a business problem?

As Erik Qualman has very rightly said, “Successful companies in social media function more like entertainment companies, publishers, or party planners than as traditional advertisers.” Bombarding your message to hundreds of thousands of people is not going to help you close a deal.

Not only the distribution channels, but you need to think differently in every aspect when it comes B2B social media – does your audience prefer a serious language or humor can work with them, what is your choice of social channels, which type of content is used by decision markers vis-a-vis the influencers, and how can you integrate your marketing efforts with sales campaigns.

In a nutshell, while B2B social media is still about human-to-human interaction since the goals and intentions are different, the efforts need to be tweaked appropriately.

A team of interns would possibly not be able to pull off your B2B social media efforts

Many companies think that social media is about setting up accounts on popular social channels and posting updates on those. This, according to such companies, is a very simple task and can be done by virtually “anybody” – even as a side project. Don’t mistake it to be just an activity. You need to start looking at it as an investment of valuable time and resources. Don’t have a Twitter or Facebook strategy. Have a social media strategy. As Brian Solis has said, “Social media is about sociology and psychology more than technology.

B2B social media requires a strong strategy, the right choice of tools, right message, understanding of the customer needs, ability to listen to what they want and what are they looking for, and engagement with the target audience – I would say this is too much to expect from a team of interns without a business acumen.

You can measure the Social Media RoI

If anybody has told you that you cannot measure the RoI with B2B social media, don’t believe them. You definitely can measure the RoI as far as you remember that R stands for “Return” and not only “Revenue”. Social media and content marketing can help you achieve –

  • Increased awareness and visibility in front of your target audience
  • Greater engagement
  • A chance to be front of the digitally-driven, socially-connected, informed, mobile audience
  • Opportunity to engage with your buyers through relevant and authentic conversations
  • Stronger relationships with your target audience
  • Your thought leadership

And all these things will eventually lead to sales, which is your ultimate objective.

You can’t avoid content marketing – content is king

And by content marketing, I do not mean the brochures and corporate presentations. When today’s B2B buyers are looking for information, finding answers to their questions, and doing their research, you need to be in front of them through educative content which helps them in their research – this content can be in the form of blog articles, whitepapers, eBooks, webinars, podcasts, case studies, presentations, etc. Do note the word educative here, because if you try to constantly sell through your content or keep on talking about how great your product or service is, then you aren’t talking about content marketing.

Your website needs to be a strong one to capture the interest of the audience

Thousands of visits to the website are worthless if they don’t take any action. Of course, your products and services have to be relevant and useful for the visitors for them to take any concrete action. However, it is also important to showcase the information in the right format, through right visuals, and with the right CTA (Call-to-Action buttons).  Some of the ways you can capture the interest of the visitors are: having a CTA on popular blogs, a banner image on all pages for unique events like webinars/ podcasts, option to download a whitepaper on relevant pages of the website, links to case studies from the services pages, etc.

B2B social media is not a replacement for your sales engine

That’s right. Social media is the top of the funnel activity in your sales engine. It can create awareness, generate interest, get people interested in your content (blogs, whitepapers, webinars, etc.), and drive traffic to your website. But if you think people will fill out the contact form after reading the blog, then it’s little unlikely to happen – and that’s because B2B sales cycles are complex, there are multiple decision makers involved, the questions of every decision maker and influencer are different, and people don’t make decisions based on impulse. Having said that, based on my personal experience as well as our experience of working with several B2B companies with their social media initiatives, I can confidently say that these things play a huge role in your sales cycle and you must integrate these efforts with your sales efforts. Don’t run these two engines in silos.

Influencer marketing works – even in b2B

People listen to people. People value opinions of the experts in the field. A thought leader talking about the latest trends in the industry holds more weightage than an advertorial. Therefore, it makes a perfect sense to connect with the right thought leaders in your industry, share their thoughts, ask them questions, seek feedback, invite them for guest blogging, or run a webinar series with them. Of course, this is a long shot and it has to be a subtle and consistent effort. The thought leaders need to get convinced that your offerings and ideologies resonate with them.

You need the involvement of your employees

In today’s digital age, the whole company is your marketing department. Marketing departments cannot run in silos. You need involvement of various department stakeholders to make your B2B social media initiatives successful – for example: you need to involve the subject matter experts in your content creation efforts, your need the sales teams to leverage the content created by the marketing teams, you need the external facing employees to amplify the impact of the social promotions, and you need your HR teams to leverage the content and social properties to connect with the right talent.

Executive branding is important

Companies need to ensure that their leadership team is highly visible on social media. Especially for companies where the top leadership is involved in large value sales deals or is the face of the company for talent acquisition, it is important that the leaders depict the right image of themselves in the online world. Publishing thought leading content, being active on B2B focused social channels like LinkedIn and Twitter are some of the ways to be in the eyeline of the right audience. I agree that the CXOs may not be able to spend a humongous amount of time in this activity, but trust me, if you can, it is totally worth it. Have a concrete personal branding strategy (define what you want to be known for), choose the right channels, engage with the right people (don’t forget to respond to the comments), and ensure that you are consistent with your efforts.

Some of these things might appear to be very obvious and basic – the key lies in following these consistently and diligently. Good luck with your efforts!

7 Reasons Why B2B Companies Fail at Social Media and Content Marketing

7 Reasons Why B2B Companies Fail at Social Media and Content Marketing

Through Midas Touch, the B2B specialist social media agency which I run, we have worked with several B2B organizations – especially in the technology space. We have strategized and executed several social media initiatives and have seen tremendous success.

We all know the stats as well –

  • 57% of purchase decisions are made before a customer ever talks to a supplier (Source)
  • 80% of business decision makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus an advertisement. (Source)
  • 94 percent of B2B buyers conduct some form of online research before purchasing a business product (Source)

And yet, many B2B companies fail in their social media efforts or are not able to derive the desired results. What could be the reasons? Are they not serious about their efforts? Are they putting in efforts at the wrong place? Are they clueless about what to measure and what not to care about? Or there are some other reasons?

Here is my take on why the social media initiatives of B2B companies could fail –

No Strategy

“Strategy is thinking about a choice and choosing to stick with your thinking” —Jeroen De Flander

Strategy – probably the most overused word in the business space today. To me, the above quote summarizes the meaning of strategy. It helps you tie together your goals into plans and helps you achieve those goals. Organizations, when they start their B2B social media efforts, need to think hard and formulate a coherent strategy – what do they want to achieve, how do they plan to do it, what are the available resources, should it be done through in-house team or outside agency, how to engage the subject matter experts, how to monitor, and how to measure the ROI – all such aspects form the components of a solid strategy. Hiring an experienced marketing professional cannot be termed as the strategy 🙂

Lack of Consistency

“If you want to be taken seriously, be consistent.”

Pretty hard-hitting, isn’t it? It, however, is absolutely true in case of B2B social media. If you start with an assumption that you want to “try” social media for three months and then decide whether you would like to continue or not – I would say don’t even start thinking. B2B social media requires influencing multiple decision makers (right from CFO to technology director), the sales cycles are long (something running into months) and the decisions are not taken based on one article (social media is part of the overall sales funnel and not the only channel) – considering all these aspects, it is extremely important that you start your initiatives with a long-term plan. Have a mechanism to monitor the response and results at regular intervals and do ongoing tweaks.

Too Much Focus on Technology

“Our business is about technology, yes. But it’s also about operations and customer relationships.” – Michael Dell

Sure, you are into technology business. Your team has technology ninjas who are extremely passionate about technology and can give an hour long talk on the latest tool. But do you know that not “all” of your target audience may be “always” interested in your technology understanding? Businesses need to understand that technology is just one of the many tools to solve business problems – businesses care about solutions to their business problems. I have seen that many time, technology companies go overboard with their passion for technology and talk only about that instead of focusing on how that technology is going to help in solving a business problem. The B2B content which the company publishes needs to focus on answering the questions of the target audience – it is less about you and your knowledge and more about customer questions and answers to those questions.

Incorrect Choice of Platforms

“Do what is right, not what is easy.”

The world’s most active social platform with the largest user base may not be right for you. B2B social media is more about education more than emotion. It is about building thought leadership than creating just another blog. It is about providing answers to the buyer’s questions than talking about the greatness of your product and service – all such things make B2B social media different than B2C. While you are still interacting with humans, the purpose is different and, hence, the choice of platforms also differs. It is not possible to send a “friend request” to your prospects but you can certainly “follow” or “connect with them” – getting the difference? The choice of social platforms can make or break your social strategy. You will end up doing a lot of “social activity” without any results. Talk to B2B social media experts or read up to understand and know which could be the right platforms for your business.

RoI Misconceptions

“When you say RoI, do you mean Return on Investment or Risk of Inaction.” – Paul Gillin

B2B companies often make the mistake of thinking that the R in RoI is always Revenue – actually the R in RoI is Returns. You will be able to achieve the RoI from your social media initiatives only if you know what to measure, how to measure, and when to measure. Enhanced awareness amongst your target audience, visits to your website, thought leadership, social conversations – all these are valid returns from your social efforts. When you measure the RoI, ensure that you look for qualitative as well as quantitative metrics. Qualitative metrics could include interactions with an influencer, valid product feedback, appreciation by your prospect on your content and so on. Quantitative metrics could include visits to your website, visibility on social platforms, the number of interactions, the number of downloads of your eBook or whitepaper, and so on. It is important to keep monitoring these metrics and tweaking the strategy based on the results.

Lack of Synergy with Sales

Stop trying to sell with marketing, instead use marketing to help customers buy.

B2B organizations need to ensure that there is a very tight integration between sales and marketing – these two teams HAVE TO work in alignment and not in isolation. The sales and marketing strategies need to work together for acquiring customers – essentially because the sales cycles are long, evaluation periods extend in months, building trust takes time, and building thought leadership takes even longer. Marketing needs to understand the sales campaigns and needs to align itself according to those – for example, if your sales team is focusing on a particular industry vertical in a particular quarter, your social media presence has to reinforce your knowledge and expertise in that sector through blog articles, webinars, eBooks, and social promotion. Similarly, the sales teams need to leverage marketing and the social channels to build connections and engage with prospects on social channels.

Completely Ignoring Executive Branding aka Personal Branding

“Your personal brand is a promise to your clients… a promise of quality, consistency, competency, and reliability.” – Jason Hartman

Be it B2B or B2C, finally, people connect with people and people trust other people. Thinking that you don’t need a “face” in the online world is one of the most common mistakes which most of the B2B companies make. Companies need to ensure that all the external facing profile – be it the CEO, your sales director, your marketing head, managers who interact with the client or sales execs who interact with the prospects – need to have a strong online presence. It is absolutely critical that the top management has a strong online brand – they need to demonstrate their values, the expertise of the company, and build trust in the minds of the prospects, customers, suppliers, or future and present employees. Unfortunately, this is often the most ignored aspect – especially by the top management of technology companies. Believe it or not, it has a strong impact on the overall company brand as well.

Hope this helps you in knowing what to avoid so that your B2B social media initiatives are successful. Do share your feedback and comments!